Monday, February 19, 2018

The Visions of Paul

As I wrote about yesterday, the apostles after Christ’s ascension in the meridian of time needed to be witnesses of the resurrection.  Paul, who was called to the apostleship sometime after Matthias, certainly fit this qualification.  He had indeed seen the Lord on several occasions.  The first of these was of course when he received his call from the Lord: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?...  I am Jesus whom thou persecutes…  Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:4-6).  That he did indeed see the Savior was made clear by Barnabus when he took Paul before the apostles, saying that Paul “had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him” (Acts 9:27).  Further confirming this is how Paul recounted the event to King Agrippa, for he quoted the Lord as saying, “I have appeared unto thee” (Acts 26:16).  Paul truly saw the Risen Lord, allowing him to bear such a sure witness of Jesus Christ to both Jew and Gentile.    

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Witness of His Resurrection

When the eleven apostles met after Christ’s resurrection to find a replacement for Judas, they stipulated that the new apostle needed to be “a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:22).  They wanted someone who could declare without equivocation that Christ had indeed risen.  They chose a man named Matthias who, given this stipulation, must have been one who saw the Savior in person after His resurrection like the other apostles.  Paul, another apostle who later was chosen, also saw the Lord directly in vision and could witness that He yet lived to the people.  In a similar manner, it is interesting to me that several of those who wrote and bore testimony in the Book of Mormon also saw the Savior—both before and after His mortal ministry.  Having personally seen the Lord, their testimony comes to us with great power and is just one of the ways that makes the book indeed “another testament of Jesus Christ”.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Turning of Things Upside Down

In a quotation of Isaiah given to us by Nephi, the prophet wrote, “And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord!  And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us?  And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay.  But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works.  For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?”  This same passage is found in Isaiah 29:15-16, but it only contains part of what is in the Book of Mormon version.  The words in italics in the passage above is what the Book of Mormon contains that the Bible does not.  Nephi’s version adds clarity about who is saying what in the passage.  In particular, removing the italicized words makes it seem that the prophet is saying to the wicked, “Your turning of things upside down shall be as the potter’s clay.”  But with the added words it appears that the wicked—those whose works are in the dark—actually speak back to the righteous that phrase.  If I understand the verse correctly, then in the last days there will be some kind of attitude from the wicked towards those performing the work of the Lord (perhaps towards Joseph Smith in particular) which is summarized in this phrase: “Your turning of things upside down shall be as the potter’s clay.” 

Friday, February 16, 2018

John's Witness of the Premortal Existence

I’ve generally thought that most of our scriptures that deal with the premortal existence are in the scriptures of the Restoration.  For example, Alma taught about Priesthood holders in the premortal world in Alma 13, Abraham’s writings tell us about the first estate and the Savior’s position there in Abraham 3, the Brother of Jared’s vision in Ether 3 teaches us about who the Savior was even before He came in mortality, and in D&C 93 we learn about how we were intelligences even before our Father in Heaven organized us His spirit children.  So, as I read the scriptures listed in the Topical Guide for Jesus Christ, Antemortal Existence of, I was surprised to see so many Biblical references in particular from the apostle John.  As we read John’s testimony of the Savior it is clear that he wanted us to understand who the Savior was in the premortal existence. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Universality of Nephi's Message

I’m impressed by the universality of Nephi’s message to us in the first two books of the Book of Mormon.  By that I mean the way that he gave teachings, promises, and warnings that were for all men and women.  Though he was of the House of Israel and often spoke of the purposes and future of Israel, it is clear as we study his words that the teachings he left us speak to all the world.  This is particularly evident in his final chapter.  He wrote, “And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ…. And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come” (2 Nephi 33:10, 13).  He was concerned for “all the ends of the earth” as he testified of Christ and invited us to come unto Him.  He wrote to all of us that if we do not respect his words and the words “which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God” then they will “condemn you at the last day” (2 Nephi 33:14).  The testimony of Nephi was written and passed down to us for all the world to have. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nephite Judges

After the time of the second Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, the Nephite people were led by a system of judges.  Mosiah described this proposed system that he set up to the people in this way: “Choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.”  There would be “higher judges” and “lower judges” that could check each other: “And now if ye have judges, and they do not judge you according to the law which has been given, ye can cause that they may be judged of a higher judge.  If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:25, 28-29).  There was a “chief judge” that led the people who was also known as the “governor” (see Helaman 1:5).  A major role of the judges was “to judge those who were brought before them to be judged,” and at least the chief judge had the power to “enact laws according to the laws which had been given” (Alma 11:1, 4:16).  The judges were to enforce the laws given by Mosiah and his predecessors, but eventually Mormon noted that “the laws had become corrupted” because of the iniquities of the people (Helaman 5:2).  The wickedness in particular of their judges in many instances stand as a warning to us of the effects that the wickedness of our own judges and lawmakers may have in our day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Christ's Intercessory Prayers

Yesterday I wrote about how the scriptures teach that the Savior makes intercession for us in that He saves us from sin and death and gives us power to overcome our challenges.  There is also another way that He makes intercession for us—He literally prays for us.  One of the definitions of the word intercession is “a prayer to God on behalf of another,” and we see in multiple accounts in the scriptures that the Christ prays for us.  It would seem odd in some respects to think that our perfect, divine Savior would feel the need to pray for us to His Father, especially since He already has been “given all power” (D&C 84:28).  But that is exactly what He does as He seeks to intercede on our behalf.  We can hear the kind of prayer He offers for us in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (D&C 45:3-5).  If we can truly believe on His name, then we can know that, because of His great atoning sacrifice, He pleads our case to the Father that we might be given everlasting life. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Power of Intercession

In his famous chapter about Christ’s suffering, Isaiah wrote, “He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Mosiah 14:12).  To make intercession (to intercede) means “to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition.”  That Christ’s atonement was an intercession for us—saving us from the effects of sin and death—was attested to by several prophets.  Paul wrote to the Romans, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).  He also said to the Hebrews, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).  Christ lives to help us and intercede for us; His purpose is to come between us and sin and protect us from its effects.  This intercession is both unconditional and conditional: “Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved. And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God” (2 Nephi 2:9-10).  He has interceded for all of us by taking away the effects of the Fall and bringing each of us back into the presence of God.  And if we believe in Him, then His intercession allows us to stay there forever. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Why art thou wroth?

One of the words that is repeated several times in the scriptural account of Cain is wroth.  When the Lord did not have respect for Cain’s offering, we read that “Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”  The Lord asked him why he was wroth and suggested that there was no need to be angry because he had full control of his destiny: “If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted.”  Cain didn’t like to be called to repentance, though, and after the Lord spoke to him, again “Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord.”  He subsequently slew Abel, and tried to turn his own behavior on the Lord as his excuse: “I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine” (Moses 5:21-23, 26, 38).  Cain was wroth because the Lord required something of him that he didn’t want to do; Cain wanted the sacrifices to be done in his own way, instead of the Lord’s, and so he just got mad instead of correcting his behavior.  He let this anger well up inside him until he completely stopped listening to the Lord and cut himself off forever.  The question of the Lord to Cain is I think pertinent to us in many situations when we find ourselves getting angry: “Why art thou wroth?... If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted.”  Our own anger and wrath that we feel, like for Cain, often stems at the root from our own shortcomings.  We should in those moments picture the Lord looking at us saying, “Why are you wroth? Just do well.” 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Moronihah's Stand

One of the most precarious moments in Nephite history was in the 58th year of the reign of the judges.  The Nephite dissenters had stirred up the Lamanites to battle against the Nephites, and they “succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful.  And the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful….  And thus those dissenters of the Nephites, with the help of a numerous army of the Lamanites, had obtained all the possession of the Nephites which was in the land southward” (Helaman 4:6, 8).  Since the days of Mosiah, the Lamanites had been based in the land of Nephi.  The land of Zarahemla where the Nephites were was north of that, and Bountiful was even further north from Zarahemla.  The narrow neck of land between the land southward (which included all the above-mentioned places) and the land northward was north of Bountiful.  It appears that at this time the Lamanites had taken Zarahemla and Bountiful, and Moronihah was pushed up against the narrow neck of land with his armies, desperately trying to stop them from breaking through into the land northward.